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The gate of Osan Air Base, South Korea.
The gate of Osan Air Base, South Korea. (Matthew Keeler/Stars and Stripes)

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SEOUL, South Korea – Two soldiers test positive for coronavirus after arriving in South Korea from the US, the military said Thursday, raising to 34 the total number of cases affiliated with U.S. Forces Korea.

The confirmation of the new infections came as South Korea struggles to contain a series of recent local outbreaks that have threatened to curtail its much-lauded progress in containing the respiratory virus.

USFK has implemented a strict process aimed at preventing the spread of the virus by troops traveling to South Korea from abroad. All arrivals must be tested upon arrival, then placed in mandatory two-week quarantine or isolation depending on the results. A second negative test is required before release from quarantine.

One service member had negative results in his first test after arriving on Osan Air Base aboard the Patriot Express on May 27, so he was transported to Camp Humphreys for quarantine. However, he tested positive on the second test and has been moved to an isolation barracks outfitted with negative pressure rooms, USFK said in a press release.

The second service member arrived on Osan Air Base on Monday, where he immediately moved into a quarantine facility. He tested positive for the virus on Wednesday and remains in the Camp Humphreys isolation barracks, according to the press release.

USFK has reported 34 coronavirus cases since late February, including 10 active duty service members, military dependents, contractors and other U.S. and South Korean civilian employees. Most have recovered, but the military has seen a recent spike in infections among troops arriving from the United States for new assignments on the divided peninsula.

South Korea, meanwhile, recorded 45 new cases on Wednesday, including 40 local infections, for a total of 11,947, according to the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That marked a slight decrease from the previous day, but health authorities have expressed concern that it is becoming more difficult to trace infections amid a series of cluster outbreaks in Seoul and surrounding areas after the numbers had declined to single digits last month.

“As the virus is spreading quickly, there is a limit in containing the spread just by tracking people who have made contact with COVID-19 patients,” senior health official Yoon Tae-ho said during a daily briefing. “Therefore everybody must follow sanitary guidelines to slow the expansion.” Twitter: @kimgamel


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